A personal fall arrest system is one option of protection that OSHA requires for workers on construction sites who are exposed to vertical drops of 6 feet or more.
Body harnesses are designed to minimize stress forces on an employee's body in the event of a fall, while providing sufficient freedom of movement to allow work to be performed.
Vertical lifelines or lanyards must have a minimum breaking strength of 5,000 pounds, and be protected against being cut or abraded. Each employee must be attached to a separate vertical lifeline, except during the construction of elevator shafts, where two employees may be attached to the same lifeline in the hoistway, provided:
Self-retracting vertical lifelines and lanyards that automatically limit free fall distance to 2 feet or less must be capable of sustaining a minimum tensile load of 3,000 pounds when in the fully extended position. If they do not automatically limit the free fall to 2 feet or less, ripstitch lanyards, and tearing and deforming lanyards, must be capable of sustaining a minimum tensile load of 5,000 pounds when in the fully extended position.
Webbing are the ropes and straps used in lifelines, lanyards, and strength components of body harnesses. The webbing must be made from synthetic fibers.
Anchorages used for attachment of personal fall arrest equipment must be independent of any anchorage being used to support or suspend platforms, and capable of supporting at least 5,000 pounds per employee attached, or must be designed and used as follows:
Horizontal lifelines are to be designed, installed, and used under the supervision of a qualified person, and as part of a complete personal fall arrest system which maintains a safety factor of at least two.
On suspended scaffolds or similar working platforms with horizontal lifelines that may become vertical lifelines, the devices used to connect to a horizontal lifeline must be capable of locking in both directions on the lifeline.
Connectors, including D-rings and snaphooks, must be made from drop-forged, pressed or formed steel, or equivalent materials. They must have a corrosion-resistant finish, with smooth surfaces and edges to prevent damage to connecting parts of the system.
D-Rings must have a minimum tensile strength of 5,000 pounds, and be proof-tested to a minimum tensile load of 3,600 pounds without cracking, breaking, or becoming permanently deformed.
Snaphooks must have a minimum tensile strength of 5,000 pounds, and be proof-tested to a minimum tensile load of 3,600 pounds without cracking, breaking, or becoming permanently deformed. They must also be locking-type, double-locking, designed and used to prevent the disengagement of the snaphook by the contact of the snaphook keeper with the connected member. Unless it is designed for the following connections, snaphooks must not be engaged:
Where an employer is using a fall arrest system that permits a fall of more than six feet, a citation should be issued under 29 CFR 1926.104(d)) unless the employer shows that (1) limiting an arrested fall to six feet is infeasible; (2) the arresting fall distance, though more than 6 feet, is as short as feasible; (3) it has taken reasonable steps to determine that (a) the arresting forces will be limited to 1800 pounds and (b) the system will not fail in an arrested fall.
Example of an employer that takes "reasonable steps":
An employer calculates the total arresting fall distance and the loads imposed on the system based on measurements, product data and appropriate calculations. Using product data, the employers determines that the components, as used, will have the necessary strength to sustain the loads and that the arresting forces on the worker would be limited to 1800 pounds.
Example of an employer that fails to take "reasonable steps":
An employer sets up a system that allows an arrested fall of more than six feet. It asserts that, in its judgment, the system will work. However, it has made no assessment of how far the arrested fall would be, what the loads of an arrested fall would be, and failed to assess the load capacity of the system.
For additional information, see Interpretations and Clarifications - Subpart M - Fall Protection. [29 CFR 1926.500-503]
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